As the bedlam ensued in the hallway outside, an ambivalence of great polarity froze me in place, as if I was stuck between magnetic fields of equal strength. Caught in this flux, I couldn’t decide whether it was best to ignore the pandemonium from the screaming Sikh or to embrace the powerful temptation of opening my front door and throwing a verbal grenade towards any miscreants within reach. In moments of vicious battle, soldiers have described an event of such profound fear that rational thought and motor skills become lost to an overloaded neural network, having blown a biological fuse. Even though I had never had such a visceral experience, I was enjoying a preview but without the popcorn. A slight panic began to coil its cold hands around my throat, much like when you have to make a decision between continuing to wait for a late bus and relieving your own bowels in the bathroom of the Starbucks behind you. I was still in the midst of making such a decision when Mayor Dwek intervened on my behalf, no doubt able to interpret the expressions on my face. If you had asked her to describe my countenance just then, she probably would have elaborated in comparable terms: It looked like he wanted to take a shit.
“Officer Linares,” she said, with a firm tone familiar to delegation, “Could you please take some of your men and see what can be done about that noise in the hallway?” She turned to Raymond, and in the same breath, she commanded, “And you should go as well, Ray. After all, this is one of the buildings that you’re responsible for, right? I think that you’re in the best position to resolve anything since you know these people.”
“Absolutely, ma’am,” Raymond answered, without demure and with all the insincere pleasantness suited of a sycophant. “Jehovah willing, I’ll calm down whatever fakakte nonsense is happening out there.” I couldn’t help but smirk at Ray’s skills as a social chameleon. I’ll give it to him…he does a good job of changing his colors when he needs to blend in.
The recon team of three bodyguards (including Officer Linares) and Raymond assembled at my front door, exhibiting more tension than a counterterrorism team breaching a room with hostages. Attempting to investigate the situation outside, Linares tried to look through my peephole…only to consequently shake his head and swear. Gotcha! That door decoration in front of the peephole…it’ll get you every time. As they opened the door and began to loudly address the transgressors of peace and quiet, I did my best to count the number of individual voices that could be discerned amongst the yells. There must be around a dozen people out there…what the hell is going on? Oh, man, I hope that one of those young girls next door didn’t give Babbu another wedgie with his divine underpants…or touch his turban…Ik Onkar help us if anything like that happened…
Mayor Dwek cleared her throat assertively, and her remaining aides immediately refocused their attention to the circle’s domain, straightening their posture as they did so. Much like an uxorious husband, they obviously knew the telling cues of those to whom they have sworn fealty. I should try that sometime with Rhonda…thought I doubt that it’ll have the same desired effect. “We’ll let them take care of that problem,” she said, waving towards the hallway. “So that we can make the most of our valuable time here. Let’s continue where we left off, Mr. Bolton. Or can I call you Peter?”
“Absolutely, Your Honor,” I consented, appreciating her professional ability to multitask in the face of adversity. We might actually get something done today after all. Imagine that. “So…as I was saying before, this whole thing started when three people – including myself – were voted onto the board of our building. Unfortunately, the plaintiffs have asserted that we rigged the whole election…but that’s another story for another time. In any case, things were fine for the first few months that we all lived together, but then some structural issues started to pop up. When it started to rain heavily, some units started to experience leaks, including mine. When they started to look at the issue, they discovered plastic bins of rainwater in the ceilings…”
“Plastic bins in the ceilings?” Mayor Dwek interrupted with incredulity.
I nodded, omitting the fact that the rubber duckies found inside the bins were an added insult to injury. She probably wouldn’t believe it, anyway. “Yes…obviously, some of the workers had known about it, and instead of alerting the foreman or anyone else above them, they had simply tried to cover it up. At least, that’s Raymond’s story…anyway, it became painfully obvious that as the board, we needed to arrange for the necessary repairs to fix the problem, since these leaks seem to be getting worse. At the next building meeting, we announced our intent to budget the money and hire the people who could fix the problem, and that’s when – pardon the cursing, Your Honor – that’s when the shit hit the fan…”
The vociferous debate in the hallway reached yet a higher decibel, as numerous people could be heard attempting to speak over one another. Through the dinh, I was able to identify one voice that projected itself from the audible thunder and lightning, foudroyant upon recognition. Bertha? What is that goddamn rabble rouser doing out there? Goddamn it, I’m trying to get somewhere with this mayor…
“What in the hell is going on out there?” Mayor Dwek asked out loud, seeming to read and echo my own thoughts. She turned to her remaining aides. “Go help Ray. It sounds like he needs it.”
As the aides (now freshly turned conscripts) left my apartment in order to join the fray, Rhonda and I were now the exclusive company of Mayor Dwek, not including the two remaining bodyguards left in the corners of my living room. Hmmm…well, we finally got her alone, minus these bodyguards who are hopefully sworn to secrecy. If there was any time to ask that question on behalf of Joe and Octavio, I guess that it would be right now… Turning to look at Rhonda, I saw the same thought dancing like the devil in her wicked stare.
“Well, your building is quite lively,” remarked Mayor Dwek, letting out a sigh of annoyance before regaining her composure. “Though I’ll admit that there’s too much excitement for my tastes…anyway…Other than this litigation issue, how do you like living in the building? And how do like living in your new home of Little Peru? What do you think of our community?”
“You know, I was a bit concerned at first,” Rhonda confided, beating me to the punch with an egregious zest. “Especially since we worried about not fitting into the neighborhood. However, we eventually found the people to be a diverse bunch who were very friendly. We would probably spend more time trying to get to know the community…”
Ahhh…good angle, good timing. Here it comes down the runway, landing as soft as a feather.
“…but Peter’s cousin has been so sick lately. He’s been diagnosed with a terrible and debilitating kidney disease. We’ve been spending so much time to help him out, and it’s been hard to find any donors…” She grabbed my hand supportively. “It’s been tough on all of us.” Nice touch, babe. I’m so glad that you’re my wife and not my enemy.
“I’m so sad to hear that,” commented Mayor Dwek, with a heavy empathy present in her voice. “I know all about trouble with kidneys. My mother suffers from diabetes, and after her kidneys failed, we’ve had to commit her to a regular treatment with dialysis. So I know how tough that can be…And, truly, if there’s anything that I can do to help, please be sure to let me know.”
Arcane is the art of reading a person’s eyes, and a good deal claimed by its proponents should be discarded like the crust from a long night’s sleep. However, one thing is true: much like your loins, their lack of dishonesty and singular mindset can betray you. When a mentalist performs a trick to prove their clairvoyant abilities, it is your willing eyes that betray your innermost thoughts, sending out Morse code with contracting pupils. Les yeux are not simply passive portals to your soul; they are champions of truth who yearn to beam their piercing messages through people and across galaxies, invading everything like the pervasive neutrinos that constantly pass through us. And now, as I scrutinized the very retinas of our mayor, I found nothing but a gleaming pool of sincerity and compassion. They had unfortunately bore witness and recorded the tribulations of loved ones’ suffering, and as such, less vivant became both the victim and the witness, whose eyes would now forever be strained with the weight of such clinging melancholy. She’s a black market organ dealer? No fuckin’ way.
“Thanks, Your Honor,” I said, making the effort to stay in character. “I’ll definitely keep that offer in mind…but, more importantly, I appreciate the sentiment. It means a lot to us, especially to me…”
Preceded by a loud shriek, all three of us were startled when the door to my apartment suddenly burst open, slamming against the coatrack next to it. Flush with emotion, Bertha entered my apartment with all the gusto of a prizefighter on the way to ring, throwing her head back to scream. “…get your hands off of me! The public has to open their eyes and be aware of the atrocities being planned behind closed doors. I’m here to expose this conspiracy between the powers that be! The people united cannot be defeated!”
Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.